I never knew how much I wanted you...

Wednesday


Can anyone else relate to being that mom who only wished for a healthy baby, not a boy or girl, but then fell to pieces with emotion when you discovered your babes gender? That was me. I never expected to be so overcome with joy and excitement to learn I was having a girl, especially as a boy mom at the time. I truly never cared either way...or so I thought.

I can't lie, it has been many loads of pink and purple laundry, hair accessories 'till kingdom come and all the expected notions, but it has also been a delight to sit back and see my sweet little girl grow into the strong and beautiful child she is today. Strength is definitely her clothing. I feel so blessed for all of my children, however today I've stumbled upon her ultrasound and felt the wave of emotions roll over me as if it were yesterday.

I just felt like sharing, and I'd love to hear your story too...if you'd like to comment.
Have a wonderful day!

Craven Farm, local treasure

Wednesday


Have you ever seen a more picturesque farm? The tractor, the corn maze, the maples in the distance...and what you don't see are the huge hills and mountain in the right hand corner just out of frame.

The drive to Craven Farm is as beautiful as the farm itself. On the morning of our visit the entire drive was in a thick fog, which oddly enough created a magical feel as the road would wind gently past big red barns and quiet pastures. If it weren't for the chirping from the backseat, I'd say it was down right peaceful.

By 10 o'clock it had burned off and revealed an absolute splendor of color. If you love taking photos as much as I do, you'll feel like a kid in a candy store - and - if you're as lucky as we were you'll be met by this ornery feathered fella.

Go and see this farm, it's worth the drive all the way to Snohomish. I promise.

The corn maze is open late on Friday nights!!!
Friendly goats, a sheep, kittens and bunnies.
Tons of stable objects to play on and around like the shipwreck in the background or a retired pick up truck.
Stroller friendly fields! And even more important, clean port-a-potty's and proper outdoor sinks with soap and towels.


Resources:
Craven Farm website >> www.crave-farm.com

Located at:
13817 Shorts School Road
Snohomish, WA 98290

Open daily 9:30 - 6:30 in October
Have fun!!!

Handmade Halloween Owls

Monday


 "Can you make me a snow owl? And can I have a baby snow owl too?"
Here goes to another handmade costume. Made of fleece and felt from JoAnn Fabric, these were two very warm kiddos out trick-or-treating.



I saw amazing owl costumes on Pinterest of course, then followed the links to here and here. At first, I was SO intimidated, but in reality this was the easiest outfit I have ever made. 
Here's how I did it:
I measured my child's arm length and cut a wing shape out of fleece. Then I took my pre-cut (I cut all the feathers while watching tv the night before) felt feathers and layered them one at a time, no particular pattern. I ran a simple straight stitch, and repeated, over and over and over. Here is what it looked like: (pardon the blurry Iphone photos)



Easy. 

Once I was done with the wings I moved onto the hats.  I cut the hat shape out of fleece so that it would stretch, but used a combination of fleece and felt for the eyes and nose. I sewed on the larger part of the eyes but used a hot glue gun for the pupils and nose.

For my daughters costume I made her a sleeveless shirt out of felt. The felt is so stiff that it helped to hold the weight of the wings. I also quickly sewed in a loop of elastic at the elbow point and wrist and made about a 6" stitch on the collar of the felt shirt for each wing. It seemed to work perfectly.

For my picky toddler I sewed the wings onto a simple t-shirt from Target. It got the job done!

The lasting effects of hands on learning

Monday


Thatch ants make enormous piles in the forest and are known as cleaners and collectors. Learning by seeing these busy ants in person has made thatch ants familiar and fascinating to my kids. They could watch these little worker ants all day long picking up pine needles and scurrying around on their huge mounds. We learned that some mounds can have up to 40,000 ants!

I'm not exaggerating when I say that this simple moment of hands on learning got my kids talking about some pretty important things like:
teamwork
purpose 
life cycle
...and it brought out their sense of humor too. 

We never walk too far without one of them pointing to a needle on the ground and announcing to the ants "you missed one" (they think they're pretty funny...it never gets old).

If I were to read thatch ant facts to my kids at home, they would find it interesting but without being able to see them in person I don't think they would retain the information nor find it as fascinating.  I am fully convinced of the importance of hands on learning and taking school OUTSIDE. 

If you'd like to see more trails and outside activities that have worked for us, go to my Instagram account where I have put location tags which will take any guesswork out of it!


Tips:
"Interpretive" trails always have great signage for a hands on learning experience. 

This trail can be found on WTA website below:

More about thatch ants >> HERE

Delicious and simple Pumpkin Bread

Friday


My kids tell me this pumpkin loaf is better than Starbucks and they're dead serious. Enjoy my Grandma's recipe below.

Grandma's Pumpkin Bread
2 C pumpkin
2 C sugar (cut back from 3 C if you prefer sweeter)
1 C water
1 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt

Use 2 greased 9 x 5 loaf pans at 350 degrees for 60 - 70 minutes.
Feel free to add raisins, chocolate chips or top with your favorite nuts or seeds like we do!

This bread gets devoured in our house, so I usually have to make a few loaves which has been great for school lunches. After they cool, I'll slice them and tuck them into snack size ziplocs and then fill a gallon freezer ziploc full of those slices. My kids love the freedom to grab one for their lunches and one for a friend.

It also makes a great gift for teachers, neighbors and friends.
Enjoy!

Souvenirs aren't just for kids

Wednesday



Souvenirs aren't just for kids...they're for us too.

I believe passionately in supporting small and local shops in every town we visit if possible and especially when we've been fortunate enough to enjoy our stay. When I think of souvenirs the first thing that comes to mind are key chains and magnets that I know I'll want to toss in the garbage in less than a week, so I've come up with my own strategy.

I offer to buy our kids a bag of 'local candy or ice cream' and I buy a souvenir that fulfills a need! That way my purchase will have longevity because who really has money to burn? I won't have buyers remorse and I'll be reminded of the fun we had from whatever town that souvenir originated. The last souvenir I bought for myself was this colorful dishtowel in a print I've not seen in any big stores at home. I love it, and every time I see it hanging there I think of the hours I spent running in the ocean with my kids, and the cute boutique it came from. 


This colorful dishtowel came from the town of Port Gamble, Washington and is handmade in the U.S.A.

"You don't have to be a badass, just get off your ass and get out there"

Monday


One of the best quotes I've read lately was from Heather, on her Instagram account @hdavis2220 who said:

"You don't have to be a badass, just get off your ass and get out there"

That is one of my favorite lines, and the motto we adhere to in our house. My husband and I don't always know what we're doing or how we're supposed to do it when it comes to family adventures, so we try to learn as we go by asking a lot of questions and reading as much as we can find before we take off.  REI has been our go-to for questions about gear, especially when we found an employee who was also a parent of small kids. We utilize the www.wta.org website a lot, using their hike finder as well as reading the most current trip reports especially in the winter. Instagram has also been a nice resource to actually SEE what the destinations look like.

Our pictures may have people fooled, but seriously, we're just trying to get out there and make memories. We cringe at some of the stupid mistakes we've made in the past as we tried to venture out beyond our comfort zones in nature, but over the course of time we continue to learn, and grow, and make amazing memories for our family.

No bathing suits, no problem.
(Mirror Lake, Washington)

Gear does not have to cost a fortune...clearance parkas from REI, $40 snowshoes from Costco, $10 sled from drug store, and a school backpack stuffed with essentials. Definitely not badass, but it got the job done.
(snow shoe/ski trail near Lake Kachess, Washington)

I suppose I would call this post, 'a call to action' in the hope that it motivates some other family, who isn't quite sure they're badass enough. Remember that quote above; "you don't have to be a badass, just get off your ass and get out there". You can do it.

Tips:
Washington Trails Association website has a great hike finder so that you can set parameters to find the best hike or trail for you. It also is full of members who regularly login to share recent trips on each trail and the corresponding conditions of the trail as well as current photos. This is extremely helpful during the winter and spring months. Look in your state for sites like this.

REI offers a ton of free classes, July 30th - 31st. Look here to find some in your area:
>> REI Outdoor classes

Buy the gear you want when it's OFF SEASON

Costco is a great resource for affordable seasonal gear.

Online community resources:
Take a look at a few of my favorite Instagram accounts that focus on family getting outside and offer practical and fun tips on how to do it and where to go. Click through to where the featured photo comes from and that will connect you to even more people who are on this same outdoor journey!

@familytrails

@happylittlehikers

@childrenofmountains

@lovelifeoutside

P R I N T your images & write your child's story

Wednesday



I promise that it will give you more joy than you imagine to see your photos in print, like we all used to do "in the olden days".

I come from a long line of paper lovers and picture takers, so it feels natural for me to print our photos and even go a step further to document the memories we make. It's especially important to me to put these memories in my kids baby albums. I jot down a few details, I don't stress about times and dates, I just want them to be able to hear my voice and to reinforce their memories and how loved they are.

This is my youngest child's book and because he had by far the most fun on the day in these photos, I had to throw them into his book! Now, get  P R I N T I N G!!!


How to be present for your kids

Monday


If you're a parent, a human parent, then you know that sometimes its really hard to simply "be present". I don't plan to preach now or even pretend to have the answer or cure all to be consistently present for my children, or for you to be for yours. I do however want to share something that each of my kids have articulated to me in their own way this year.

One message came in written format, a mother's day card.
Another message came in a sleepy voice explaining their favorite part of this day as I was putting that child to bed, and the last message came from a small, innocent voice commanding me while holding my face in both of his hands...

"play with me"


The mother's day card read:
"I love it when __________" And written was: "my mom plays with me"

As I tucked one child in for bed I asked what their favorite part of the day was.
"I loved it when you played with me in the water and we were splashing each other"

And then there's my child who can't pretend or be coy, he just impulsively has to blurt out whatever thought he has in that moment. "Mom! Play with me"


Ugh. It tugged at my heart to hear them each say these words. They're not sophisticated enough to have somehow conspired to drive this point home to me, but in the end, they sure did. The reality is, I have tons of things to get done every day, and I don't particularly like playing "hot wheels" any more than I want to play "club penguin" or hear another, longggg story about Star Wars. Most days, what I really want to do is hide in the bathtub with a hot latte and cruise Pinterest for an hour, uniterrupted.

I know I'm not the only parent who feels this way. I don't have any answers to shout from the mountain tops, but I'm taking a moment today to humbly share some of the experience I have from raising my kids for the last 12 years. This message hit me hard when I heard it three times. I'm not a slow learner, usually, but I do need reminding. So today I am sharing this thought with you, and the photo that sparked the memory for me that I need to be present for my kids, in the way that they want me to be.

Be Present. 


Helpful Links:
If you want to read more articles that offer advice on ways to be more present, I've googled them already, because that's what a guilt ridden mom does. Let me save you the time, here are a few good write ups.

12 ways to be present for your child

Calm Mom

5 ways to be present with your kids this year

How to be present



Don't forget to // TURN // your polarizing filter

Thursday


A polarizing filter for me, is like having a secret weapon when photographing in the hours of direct sun, especially when I'm near water. Since I don't have much time for retouching photos, I try to get my images as good as possible in the moment. 

I find that we are often in the direct sunlight and near water, so I've got to have my polarizing filter on to get images like the one above. But, there's one thing that I must remember...turn! 

Polarizing filters are threaded onto the end of the lens and are meant to be turned so that we can cut down on the glare - however - if its in the wrong position it can turn your photo into exactly what you don't want. So, the lesson is...don't forget to check the filter when you move to a different angle or position! Turn, turn, turn, until you see what you want.

Here's the difference:

(left) before I turned the filter     ||    (right) after I positioned it to maximize the true color
There's a misconception that a polarizing filter is for darkening images taken in the sun, but that's not exactly accurate. You may need to click up one or two on your exposure, but it's actually intended to sort out the sun's rays and is particularly magical at increasing saturation.

Cambridge In Colour  has an extensive explanation of polarizing filters as well as before and afters illustrating the work of this amazing filter.

Tip: you don't have to spend much and the reward will be well worth it.
Amazon listings for filters here >> Amazon
B & H listings for filters here >>  B & H

Good Luck!

Do you pose your kids for photos?

Friday


I get asked all the time whether or not I pose my kids for the photos I take.

No.

Unless it's for our Christmas card (and even then...I try not to) I don't have the patience to attempt such a task, nor do I think it will ever give me the true emotions that I'm trying so hard to capture. What I've learned from taking pictures of my own kids over the years, is that its best if I'm behind the scenes, stalking them like a cougar on the prowl. If they sense my presence or even get a whiff of my intentions all I get is cheesy, toothy smiles, or worse...glares.


I was ready for that smile above. After pretending to be disinterested in the farm (to his dismay)...I had turned my camera on, light balanced and was ready for his reaction to feeding a goat for the first time. Jackpot. True excitement and genuine joy.


My advice to the parents who've humbled me with compliments and who are genuinely trying to take better photos of their kids, is this: use your instinct to predict what your child is about to do! You know them best. Nine times out of ten, I bet you know exactly when they'll give up that money shot.
And remember, a perfect photo does not necessarily mean crystal clear, all hairs in place - that's not going to make you as happy as capturing true emotion. Don't stress...have fun with the process and work on that stealthy mode.

these guys were taking an intentional new year's photo like we always do, a tradition, but the little guy wasn't having it and in their efforts to get him interested, the best picture of all came to life - I don't care if one of them is faceless, look at the fun!

Remember: Prep your camera ahead of time and be ready *before* the moment, rather than scrambling as its happening. Good luck!

Ordinary or extraordinary moments?

Wednesday


Documenting life's unscripted moments, is the trade mark of my business, Fresh Outtakes baby albums, but even more than that, it is my passion.

The small, ordinary moments that happen every day are without question the moments that I cherish the most. I want to capture these moments in photos and words so that I'll be able to see them again and so that I can share with my children our story, together. My hope is that their baby album will not only be a fun narrative of their early years, but that it will also serve as a reminder of their individuality and of our unconditional love. Moments become memories very quickly, and I don't want to risk time erasing them away - hence, 'documenting life's unscripted moments'.

In the picture above, we were talking quietly, laughing at his silliness as he plunged his little hand down my shirt like toddlers do all over the world I'm sure. His post nap affection is my absolute favorite. He usually bursts out of his room yelling for me in his low, husky voice. Then, he takes my hand and we walk to 'my spot' on the couch to snuggle until he feels ready to face the world.


Moments like this, though seemingly mundane, are some of my absolute favorites. I don't ever want to forget what it feels like to hold his soft, chubby hand, to see the trust in his sleepy blue eyes as I lift him onto my lap, or feel the warmth of his small body curled up to mine. I wish I could record his rough, scratchy voice as we head down the hall, or his growing giggles as he slowly accelerates up to full mischievousness, every single day.

My desire to hold on tight to these moments, is the reason why I created a line of baby albums in the first place. The pages in these books hold the images and the stories that I cherish. It is the vehicle for me to tell my child their own unique story. I never want to risk forgetting any of it. This is my most humble labor of love.



To purchase an album: www.freshouttakes.com
Gender Neutral theme available
All keepsake albums span from pregnancy to age 6

Using nature to teach life lessons

Monday


Nature, is my greatest teaching aide.

My kids are very visual people when it comes to learning and the hands on approach and real world examples help life lessons sink in for them. Here is just one lesson, taught through nature last weekend, but reinforced every single time we find a very still body of water.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

Every time we disrupt still water like this I have to remind our kids of 'the ripple effect' in life. I start the conversation about how our action and reactions effect the people around us, our world and those we love. I think that simply tossing a rock into a pond like this can sometimes illustrate my point better than my own words can.

I'm always amazed at how even though we've had this same conversation a million times, they still listen to me patiently, and they relate and reflect with examples of the ripple effect from their own personal experiences. Sometimes their examples are from school, sometimes from home, and when we wrap up these conversations I usually turn to see my husband standing there patiently indulging me in this teaching moment. Secretly, I even turn the lecture onto myself, silently reflecting on my own missteps and occasionally on my finer moments. Regardless, nature continues to teach us all, big and little, about life, respect and how we impact this world.


Parenting is rough sometimes, I struggle to find the right words, age appropriate examples and so on, and so on. Fortunately what I have discovered is that nature is one of the best teachers of all, providing me with moments like the one above. I feel fortunate to have nature as a teaching aide and will humbly accept all the help I can get, wherever it comes from. 

Location: Gold Creek Pond, Washington
Fun fact: The colors are not enhanced in the photos - it really is that amazing in person!

How my childhood influenced my design preferences and product line

Monday


This gorgeous color is the root cause of my design preferences. 

My family spent a considerable amount of my childhood on our boat in the San Juan Islands and I feel certain that the water, particularly the salt water, has had a lasting affect on me. I feel irrationally happy when I can be near the ocean, smell the salty air or hear the waves lapping on the beach.

I can tell in my home decor choices, jewelry and even my product development, that the colors from my childhood memories on the water have influenced me greatly.

Take a look at the beautiful image of Deception Pass above and then see my favorite binder colors for my own product line. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. 
Binder colors: Aqua, Navy, Apple



"...we got the Sealife one with a blue cover. It's so gorgeous. It's going to be an heirloom..."
(a very kind customer comment from BabyCenter website)

Ironically, the first baby album that I designed for Fresh Outtakes, which has become my best seller, is named 'Sealife'.  The Sealife baby album is filled with bright images of sea creatures and can be paired with any binder color available.

Fresh Outtakes baby albums can be purchased at: www.freshouttakes.com

The most authentic boys keepsake album

Wednesday


Before my children were even born,  I swore to myself that I would try my hardest not to place any gender bias onto them regardless of whether they were boys or girls. I laugh at myself now because life would teach me very quickly that some things were simply inevitable and absolutely in keeping with gender driven ideology, and those gender assumptions were not all bad or oppressive.

Like many other moms, I never taught my boys how to be rough or make car engine noises, yet I would hear them day after day revving engines and screeching tires. Their race cars sounded fast and I would hear gears shifting and levers cranking for their larger work vehicles. They knew they were good too because they thoroughly enjoyed causing me to pull over thinking their was an emergency vehicle behind me. A little too life like for me, but still, I found it impressive.

So, over time,  I conceded defeat and created the most gender specific keepsake album design that I NEVER thought I was capable of, "Vintage Vehicles".

"I love this one" (from our youngest)
This album was especially fun to create because my first son was already 4 years old and was able to come with me as I searched for the best vintage vehicles for this album. As we shopped, I waited to see his face light up with excitement and then I knew it was the right one.


Every vehicle I photographed for this album was an original, made in the U.S.A., vintage vehicle. When I say that these keepsake albums are "made in U.S.A." it is the absolute full truth from concept to creation. I am so proud of this colorful and fun boys keepsake album!

Silhouettes, one of my favorite ways to photograph my kids

Monday


Silhouettes. Over the last few years silhouettes have become one of my favorite ways to document my kids playing and having fun together. Each of my favorite photos has a different level of contrast, sometimes the kids are nearly black allowing the light to create sharp silhouettes and other times less contrast allows for a softer nod to their silhouettes.




There's so much color in this one below...



This one...the sun is behind them but off to the side creating a soft glow outlining those sweet, chubby little cheeks.


And their love affair continues. I have the proof! 
Silhouettes, my favorite.
by mlekoshi